When talking about Jiu Jitsu families, the Gracie family is generally the family brought up most. But they are not the only family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that helped advance the martial art.
Their cousins, the Machado brothers are also some of the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners that have ever lived. They like the Gracie’s had a profound impact on the martial art as they helped expand it internationally.
Here is the story of the legendary Machado brothers. We’ll go through the four brothers’ journeys through Jiu Jitsu and how they became top ambassadors for the sport.
The Machado brothers
There are 5 Machado brothers within the family that created their own Jiu Jitsu school. Carlos, Roger, Rigan, Jean Jaques, and Rigan. Each brother has been practicing Jiu Jitsu for around 40 years or more and have won countless titles.
The oldest of the brothers that started his training under Rolls Gracie. Carlos is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. former world champion, and has run his academy in LA for 4 decades.
Roger Machado is the second oldest of the brothers and is a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He is the yogi and vegetarian of the family that runs his school Roger Machado Jiu Jitsu in Pasadena, California.
Rigan Machado is the third of the five brothers and is an 8th degree BJJ black belt. He was actually the first of the five brothers to travel to the US. Also known for having numerous celebrity students that train with him at his academy.
Jean Jacques Machado
Jean Jacques Machado is the fourth of the five brothers and is a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He is probably the most known of the five brothers. From being a former ADCC champion and giving black belts to Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan.
John Machado is the youngest of the five brothers and is also a 7th degree BJJ black belt. He runs his own school in Allen, Texas and when he isn’t teaching, John is also a part-time actor. Getting numerous small roles in action movies through the brother’s connection with Hollywood actors.
How are the Machado brothers related to the Gracie family?
The Machados brothers are cousins to the Gracie family through their Aunt Layr, who married Carlos Gracie Sr. Through their Aunt’s marriage, the brothers were exposed to Jiu Jitsu and training at an early age.
The Machados time training with the Gracie’s
Carlos Machado first started learning Jiu Jitsu at the Gracie Academy learning from his Uncle Helio. He would train there for a brief time before moving to Copacabana.
In Copacabana, Carlos was joined by his brothers and began training at Rolls Gracie Academy. They would train under Rolls and Carlos Gracie Jr.
After Rolls’ tragic accident, Carlinhos moved the school to the Tijuca area of Rio de Janeiro and the Machados joined him. They would help Carlos Jr form Gracie Barra and began being molded into some of the best BJJ athletes of the era.
Going on to win every major championship within Brazil at the time including the Mundials.
Rigan Machado moves to the US
Out of the five brothers it was Rigan who was the first to make the journey to the US. Rigan wanted to help his cousins, the Gracie’s, to expand Jiu Jitsu within the United States.
He first traveled to San Francisco to live with his cousin Cesar Gracie. Since there was no Jiu Jitsu in the Bay Area during the mid 1980s, Rigan moved south to Los Angeles.
There he would work at the Gracie Academy in Torrance for Rorion Gracie. His brother Carlos would join him a little later on, but their stay wouldn’t be long. They had ideological differences with Rorion about training and would part ways.
Rigan would then leave the Gracie Academy and go to open his own school. He initially wanted to open another Gracie Academy, but Rorion owned the rights to the name.
Rigan recruits his brothers
In 1990, Rigan’s would travel back to Brazil to visit his family. When he came back, Rigan came to his four brothers with a proposition.
He said that they needed to come with him to California to run a Jiu Jitsu school together. Rigan believed that there was so much potential for him and his brothers to do great things there.
Since the brothers had already accomplished everything competition wise in Brazil, this was the next big step in their lives.
With the blessing of their professor Carlos Gracie Jr, the Machado brothers would move to California and start a BJJ school. They would call it Machado Jiu Jitsu.
Like their cousin’s the Gracie’s, the brothers began doing Jiu Jitsu out of their new home in Redondo Beach.
The Machados and Chuck Norris
One day when the Machado brothers were training out of their garage, Roger came with a visitor. That visit was action star and Karate champion Chuck Norris.
Roger had actually met Chuck Norris prior in Las Vegas at one of his martial arts conventions. It was one of the first times that Jiu Jitsu was demonstrated in front of Norris’ Karate federation.
As fate would have it, Chuck would come back into Roger’s life years later in California. Chuck spent a short time training at Rorion’s school, but now wanted to train with the Machado brothers.
During this time, Norris was taking 6 months off after filming a movie. While he was off, Chuck trained Jiu Jitsu all day and night with the Machado brothers.
They became really good friends during this time and Chuck would constantly invite the brothers out to eat between training sessions.
A few months after Norris began training with brothers, he had a surprise for them. They got in Chuck’s car and he drove them to a shopping center near Ventura Blvd in LA.
At this shopping center, there was a large unit full of Jiu Jitsu mats. As a gift Chuck Norris bought the Machado brother their own academy as a way of saying thank you.
The Machado brothers were stunned and said there was no way they could afford the rent. But Chuck told them that he was the owner and they didn’t have to pay rent.
He also jokingly said that he didn’t want to drive from Encino to their house in Redondo Beach to train anymore.
To this day, the Machado brothers are still lifelong friends with Chuck Norris and forever grateful to him.
The Machado brothers compete in Sambo
In the early 1990s, there were no Jiu Jitsu competitions to compete in. This would lead to a few of the Machado brothers to begin competing in Sambo competitions.
Since they already had Judo training and were Brazilian world champions, they would dominate in Sambo.
Rigan would win 4 national championships and 3 pan championships in Sambo. Jean Jaques would win 3 titles and John Machado would win 2 titles along with numerous competitions in California.
The Machados in film and television
Through their friendship with Chuck Norris, the Machado brothers got lots of work in film and television. Everything from making a cameo on Walker Texas Ranger to doing choreography work in other action movies.
This connection with Hollywood would lead the brothers to get more high profile students. Rigan most notably who teaches Ashton Kutcher, Wiz Khalifa, Vin Diesel, and Charlie Hunnam.
Keanu Reeves has also been working with the Machado brothers the last few years for his John Wick films.
The Machado brothers latter years competing
During the late 1990s when the sport of Jiu Jitsu began taking off, the Machado brothers were still competing. When the IBJJF and ADCC created their world titles, a few of the Machado brothers would compete before retiring.
Carlos Machado would win the middleweight and absolute divisions at the Campeonato Internacional de Masters e Seniors before retiring from competition.
Rigan Machado would win at the 1996 and 1997 Pan Championships and earn bronze at the 2000 ADCC Championship. He competed at the next two ADCC events in 2001 and 2003 before retiring from competition.
Jean Jacques Machado would win first place at the 1999 ADCC Championship and place second at the next two events. He would continue competing until 2006 before retiring from competition to run his school full time.
The Machado brothers get heat in Brazil
During the 1990s, the Machado brothers got a little bit of heat from BJJ practitioners in Brazil. Practitioners in Brazil did not like that they were teaching “gringos” the Brazilian martial art.
Especially gringos that competed in grappling. In particular former ADCC champions Mark Kerr and Ricco Rodriguez, who the Machado brothers taught and would later beat Brazilian grapplers.
The brothers would ignore these criticisms as the times were changing and soon everyone would have access to Jiu Jitsu.
The legacy of the Machado brothers
The Machado brothers are some of the most influential BJJ practitioners that have ever lived. Like their cousins in the Gracie family, they traveled to the US and helped spread the art of Jiu Jitsu.
Today, the Machado’s are in separating places running their own academies in affiliations with schools all over the world. They may be training in separate places now, but they’re still brothers and their bond is forever.